The ‘forgotten man’ of 1944….

TONY CONBOY remembers GAA star Paddy Beisty, who died earlier this week…

“How many of them left?”
I have been asked that question many times down the years. The ‘them’ referred to are the surviving members of the great Roscommon team of 1943/1944. The answer to the question is that there is just one surviving member now of that elite club still with us as the penultimate survivor Paddy Beisty passed away this week (on Tuesday,  October 18th).

  In a sense he was the ‘forgotten man’ of that panel. Paddy Beisty came from Rathcroghan, Ballinagare and is a visible presence in a number of the pictures of the team and panel of 1944. Two of them are of the team celebrating their victory around the ’44 win and one is of the team before the ’44 semi-final versus Cavan.  

  (The sole surviving member now is Liam Gilmartin, the towering midfield partner of Eamon Boland. Liam, from Ballymurray, lives in Dublin and celebrate d his 95th birthday last June.)

  In 2012 I made contact with Paddy Beisty’s wife Carol and I met with her and Paddy…

My visit to Paddy and Carol

“On a cold Monday afternoon I visited and we talked and I listened for quite a while as Paddy chipped away at the memories and ghosts of long ago.

  His life path had its surprises like many lives do and was a varied and most interesting one, football apart. His father had been in the United States and became a U.S. citizen, or was ‘naturalised’. He returned to his native Mayo, married and all his family were born there. With a number of other families, many with Mayo roots, they moved on to a new land division farm in Rathcroghan. Paddy was just an infant at the time of the move.

  He was obviously a bright young student for at the end of national school he was awarded the scholarship to Summerhill College in Sligo. This was during the war years of the early forties.  After Summerhill he progressed to Ballyhaise Agricultural College in County Cavan. In 1941, a group of locals led by Father Turley, Phil McDermott (brother of another forties star, Derry) and John Joe Rushe decided to form their own junior team. In 1943 they met Elphin, with whom many of them had played earlier, such as the Galvins, and won by one point. Narrow victories followed over Loughglynn, Aughim and then Oran in the final and the young club had become County Junior champions. Through this and playing in Ballyhaise he came to the attention of the Roscommon management, basically Dan O’Rourke, and he became a member of the 1944 panel. Roscommon went on to their most famous victory by beating Kerry in the All-Ireland Final, thus making it two in successive years.

  In his assessment of members of that team he refers to Dr. Gibbons as a ‘clever and intelligent footballer’; Jimmy Murray as ‘a great captain who kept us all together’; Brendan Lynch as ‘one of the best and the nicest guy’. Carlos was ‘just great’ and with the midfield partnership of Gilmartin and Boland ‘you can’t speak of one without the other. Both were outstanding. Boland was a powerful man he was involved then in the timber felling. I was at a function a few years ago now in Castlerea to honour Eamon’. Nerney was ‘tough’ while trainer Billy Keogh was ‘very important to the training regime’. John Joe Fahey was ‘the provider, without him we had nothing’. Dan O’Rourke he refers to as ‘’a wonderful man who with his family provided for the team and said to me ’you’ll have many All-Irelands’.

  Paddy was just a young man at this stage and it looked as if a long and successful football career lay in front of him. However world events would intervene and change the direction of his life. Since his father was born in the United States and was still a U.S. citizen, this carried through to his family. Paddy registered and declared for the States. Thus, though living outside that country, the initial ‘call up’ cards for the U.S. army came in 1944 when he reached the age of eighteen. When his unit was being demobbed he chose to be demobbed to Fort Louis, Missouri. Paddy, with his agricultural background, chose St. Louis because of the possibility of further advancement in farming-related education.

  Later he moved to Trenton, New Jersey, where he met and married his wife Carol. They returned to Ireland in 1970 with their family of six children of which they are very proud.

  In talking to those Roscommon football stars, and I’ve been lucky enough to have talked to most of them, the decency, integrity, camaraderie, and how easily they wear their honours, shines through. In that most difficult period they were the county’s heroes. They made Roscommon people happy and proud and they left a legacy that lives on. Paddy Beisty played his part in all that and, as the proud holder of a senior All-Ireland medal with Roscommon, deserves his due in the record of Roscommon’s great era in Gaelic football.”

  I wish to extend my deepest sympathy to his wife Carol and all the Beisty family on the passing of Paddy. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.